Photo: Head of Talent Acquisition at Schneider Electric Iberia, Eva Roca. Credit: Courtesy of the interviewee
By Cristina Sánchez
In order for any company to adapt to changes in its environment, reinventing itself is a must. Schneider Electric is a good example of this. Born during the Industrial Revolution, this French company was a metallurgist and machine manufacturer in its early days. Almost two centuries after its founding, it is now a multinational with 142,000 employees that drives business and household digital transformation thanks to its energy efficiency and process automation technologies.
For the Head of Talent Acquisition at Schneider Electric Iberia, Eva Roca, "people play the most important role in the organisation" when it comes to tackling change. As a result, during this period of turbulence caused by the coronavirus crisis (COVID-19), she argues that Human Resources (HR) departments are facing "the most challenging project of the last few recent years".
According to a survey of over 700 managers; ensuring employees’ health and safety, supporting the CEO in reviewing strategic planning and adapting the organisation to new ways of working are the main tasks of corporate HR managers in the new normal. In your opinion, what are the main challenges facing HR managers today?
The toughest challenge is how to manage change. We need to be aware that the technological revolution has been accelerated by coronavirus and that we will have to adapt to VUCA [Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity] environments. People who think that when this is over we will return to certainty and normality need to change their mindset. We are going to have to be constantly managing uncertainty.
In HR, our strategic function is to generate environments that allow us to push and catalyse change in the fastest and most agile way possible, as well as to help people understand that technology is there to serve people so that they can contribute value.
Schneider Electric uses technology to enhance its people management. In 2019, they launched an artificial intelligence (AI) tool, Open Talent Market, which allows employees to find training, mentoring and new job opportunities within the company itself. In what ways does this system meet employees' needs?
Open Talent Market is a tool that allows us to put people at the heart of it. It includes an internal mobility component which intelligently links supply and demand, the talent we are looking for and the talent that is available. It also responds to people looking to partially collaborate on projects in other countries or to learn about a certain technology without the need to change roles. Implementing technologies, such as AI, in HR results in a better employee experience and a more engaged employee.
The pandemic has placed caring for the physical and psychological well-being of employees to the forefront. In what ways do you protect your talent's health?
Schneider Electric employs more than 3,800 people in the Iberian region and almost half of them work on site in our six factories. Neither factory employees nor field technicians can work remotely, and so we have a huge responsibility to create a space that is safe for them whilst also providing a digitally accessible and stable environment that allows us to stay connected. In addition, we are supporting managers in being responsible for preserving the psychological safety of our teams as far as possible.
While the large-scale introduction of teleworking has been a huge corporate change in the wake of coronavirus, Schneider Electric was already promoting teleworking in their offices before the crisis. Are they allowing employees more flexibility in the wake of the pandemic?
We have had a telework policy since 2010 and so it was easy for us to adapt to the coronavirus crisis. The advantage for us was that we already had everything in place. We are now committed to a hybrid model and have extended flexibility for those positions that can telework: we have a policy of three days working from home and two in the office. We aim to create connected ecosystems where people are able to have the flexibility that their particular circumstances require.
The latest report from the Conference of Spanish University Rectors, La universidad española en cifras, indicates that the demand for enrolment in STEM courses in Spain is five percentage points below the European Union average and warns of low female representation. How can you attract this scarce technological talent?
Since 2015, only one out of every four enrolments in STEM [university] degrees has been female, which means that in order to increase the number of professionals in the market, we need to encourage young women to pursue technology careers. We have initiatives along these lines: employees have voluntarily created a programme, Let's Go Engineering, to help school children discover what female and male engineers do.
42% of Schneider Electric's employees are women. What are your targets for diversity?
Diversity is not a destination, diversity is the journey. We first started advocating that we wanted to be the most diverse company ten years ago. We want 50% of the organisation to be women and to have all kinds of diversity. It is also important that inclusion is built into diversity: it's not just about gender or generational diversity, it's about people feeling safe and comfortable in their environments.
Schneider Electric has had to constantly reinvent itself throughout its history. What is your strategy for encouraging retraining and promoting an innovative mindset among professionals?
It becomes very difficult to generate innovative environments if the company itself is not prepared to accept that when one innovates, one makes mistakes or to give freedom to its employees. Among our values is to dare to disrupt. Our leadership style has to empower and embrace the idea that people can make mistakes: it is essential that people feel safe to make mistakes and learn from them. A curiosity to learn and the attitude are more important than the learning itself.
Is it important to offer specific support to foster skills like resilience?
Companies need to prepare employees to manage uncertainty so that uncertainty does not become a stopper. Mindset and resilience will be key to adapting with agility to a changing environment and it is important for employees to feel that expectations are clear and that they are valued.
What do you predict the labour market will look like in the next few years given the technological changes occurring in the fourth industrial revolution?
I think we are moving towards ecosystems of people who will work on projects without necessarily being hired, but rather will be freelancers. There will be a lot more co-creation than contracting. We will also see more mergers, acquisitions and collaborations with start-ups in order to innovate. We will also see the traditional approach of "lawyer", "engineer" and "architect" changing: instead of professions, there will be professionals.
Published by OPINNO © 2022 MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW spanish edition